Cheapest Drift Cars To Get Into The Sport

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If you're thinking about getting into drifting, start here.

Motorsport is expensive to get into and an expensive hobby to maintain. With that in mind, just buying the cheapest car for drifting is not the way to go. You need to choose a car that has a solid aftermarket for parts, and one that plenty of people have already used for drift cars, so there's knowledge out there to tap into. Budget drift cars still need decent power in stock form as tuning an engine is generally less expensive and time-consuming than an engine swap. That doesn't mean you have to choose something with a V8 as your first drift car, though. It can help, but it's far from essential to get into the sport.

What's important is a rear-wheel-drive well-balanced chassis and a transmission that gives you complete control over what gear it is in at all times. For a budget car, this typically means a manual transmission. The good news is that those ingredients don't mean you're going to pay through the nose to go drifting.

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Ford Mustang GT

The Ford Mustang isn't necessarily the most obvious car for drifting as the turn angles and live rear axles can be a hindrance. However, older Mustang GTs are plentiful and relatively cheap and come with three essential ingredients: rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission, and abundant horsepower. The latest we would look at for a drift build is a fifth-generation model built between 2005 and 2014. However, it would be hard to go wrong with an SN95 generation as the aftermarket is extensive, and things like a suspension upgrade and an angle kit for the steering are easily sourced. The V8s in the GT models are a well-known entity, so if there's a problem, someone has solved it, and if there's a way to get extra power from it, somebody has found it. It's easily one of the best cheap beginner drift cars around.

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BMW 3 Series

It used to be that E30 generation cars were well-loved for drifting as they are light, balanced and easy to get hold off. Now, though, they aren't so abundant, and they're also quite expensive. So, take a look at the E46 generation, which is still light and balanced, but is easily found with much better power from its six-cylinder engine. If you want to keep it as a daily driver as well as a drift car, you'll be paying the BMW tax, but if it's for the track, you'll be pulling all of the luxury out anyway. There are caveats, like knowing you'll have to replace the diff bushing sooner rather than later and you should replace the cooling system as a matter of course, but it can be worth the extra investment.

The aftermarket is rife, and it doesn't take much to get the chassis ready to slide, and the inline-6 engines are smooth and easy to control on throttle. We recommend avoiding the 330 models, though. They make more power, but the 320 model's straight-six engines are more resilient and less temperamental.

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BMW Z3

We look forward to the comments from those that aren't actually reading the words. They're going to miss something important here: The Z3 is based on the E36 3 Series chassis and is designated as such. That means almost every drift part available for the E36 3 Series will fit, and it comes with a strong lineup of six-cylinder engines. However, unlike the E36 3 Series, they are plentiful and not crazy expensive.

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Nissan 350Z

You could pay more for a 370Z in equally robust shape, but either way, you're getting a car with no rear seats to throw away and a bulletproof 3.5-liter V6 engine making around 280 horsepower (assuming it hasn't been thrashed). The rest of the drivetrain is equally strong, including the limited slip differential that can be left untouched to learn with. People have been extracting more power from the V6 since the 350Z came out. Everything from forced induction kits to suspension and steering upgrades is out there, making the 350Z an excellent budget drift car that can be built over time.

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Nissan 240SX

When it comes to affordable drifting cars, the Nissan 240SX is the king. Unfortunately, the legendary S13 generation has been priced out of this list (as is the 180sx), but S14 generation cars are still plentiful. Still, it's not the cheapest initial buy-in to drifting, and you'll still pay what's known as the "drift tax." However, there's a reason why the prices of the 240X and its parts keep drifting (pun intended) higher. It's light, balanced, and durable, and the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine can take a kicking. The aftermarket is immense, and the 240SX's following is cult-like.

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Lexus IS200 / IS300

Those in the know hunt both the Lexus IS200 and IS300, so there is a bit of a drift tax going on. However, the IS200 is still plentiful and reasonable in price, and the IS300 is still out there. The difference is mainly in the engine. The first generation IS200 comes with a 2.0-liter straight-six known to be bulletproof. It only puts out a little over 150 hp, but it has a limited-slip diff and enough to get it sideways. It's a solid, good, cheap drift car to get into. The IS300 is more desirable as it uses one of the now-legendarily bulletproof 2JZ engines - the non-turbocharged 2JZ-GE. While it's not the turbocharged version of lore, it makes 217 hp out of the box and, like the twin-turbo 2JZ-GTE, can take a lot more without getting into the internals.

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Toyota GR86 / Subaru BRZ / Scion FR-S

Now that we have a new generation Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, prices for the first gen models are starting to drop, and the aftermarket is growing fast. One day, there will be a tuner and drift tax on the first generation, but for now, it's one of the best entries into either area. The Subaru Boxer engine isn't the most torquey of engines, but it gets the job done, and there are tuning options to be explored later. The potential for the platform is huge, and it's one of the best choices on this list in terms of affordable drifting cars. It'll be a while before the faster Supra starts dropping in price, though.

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Mazda RX-8

Boy, do we look forward to the comments, but hold up a minute. The RX-7 is a legendary drift missile, but good luck finding one at a reasonable price for what it is. However, Mazda's next generation of rotary-powered cars failed to catch on with enthusiasts in the long term due to the engine's thirst for oil and the inevitable need for an engine rebuild well before 100,000 miles. However, the chassis is excellent. The balance and handling is superb, and they are dirt cheap if you look around. The 1.3-liter rotary engine makes a little over 230 hp with a 9,000 rpm that you'll often be visiting. All you have to do is assume the previous owner didn't understand the engine and factor in a rebuild while researching how to maintain it properly. You'll rarely see the RX-8 on lists of good, cheap drift cars, so it's still a bit of a secret weapon.

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